K-9 Comfort Dogs Report for Duty in Texas: 'They Don't Judge'
They don't judge. They don't ask questions. And they don't say "stupid things," like humans do.
Nine ambassadors of the K-9 Comfort Dogs arrived this week in Sutherland Springs, Texas, to provide some four-legged consolation to residents who have lost so much.
There are no words to explain or ease the heartache of 26 people shot dead inside a Baptist church in a tiny town outside San Antonio last Sunday.
"The dogs are always a hit," Lutheran Church Charities president Tim Hetzner told InsideEdition.com Thursday. "Some pet them. Some hug them. Some start crying when they hug them.
There are things dogs do that humans just can't, Hetzner said. "When you've been through a disaster, many humans feel like they have to say something. Like 'You'll get over this,' or 'You'll get through this.' We say stupid things," he said.
"Dogs don't say stupid things," he said. "Dogs are good listeners. They're confidential. They're nonjudgmental. They're safe."
The animals are specially trained for two years before going on the road to grief-stricken towns. They've comforted survivors from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, when 20 first-graders where mowed down in 2012. They were in Orlando, Fla., last year when 49 people were killed in a nightclub shooting.
And they're traveling to Sutherland Springs now, visiting first responders, family members and surviving worshippers from the country's latest mass shooting site.
On Wednesday, the golden retrievers from Texas, Indiana and Illinois nuzzled up to those who were quickest to the bloody scene at the First Baptist Church off Highway 87.
"This is a small town, so many of the first responders are volunteers," Hetzner explained. "They have a volunteer fire department."
One volunteer came forward to see the dogs, and told Hetzner she was the second person to enter the bullet-ridden house of worship.
"We spent time with her," he said. As part of her duties as a first responder, "she had to process the crime scene. She knew people in that church."
The dogs touched her heart, he said, and brought her a feeling that was a distant relative of joy.
"She said, "This is the first time I've smiled in three days,'" Hetzner recounted.
Another helpful trait of his comfort dogs, Hetzner said, is the fact they just "shut up and listen," even if there's nothing to be done but weep.
"Crying is a key part of the body healing itself. When you're crying, you're healing." And the dogs are content to just stay put [and] soak up the tears.